Saturday, January 07, 2006

Recent boardgaming

Between open games night at Great Hall Games and Dan, Dan, the Monkey Man hosting a New Game Show Off day, I've gotten a lot a boardgaming in these pas few days. Here's the skinny.

Dragon Delta

I've already talked about this in a previous post, but I'll give a session recap. Recaps, really- we played this one three times! First with five, then twice more with (two different) sets of six players. I won the first game, I don't remember who won the second (anyone?), and Marc won the third. I really liked playing this with six- took about an hour or so, I'd say. I didn't really like a five-way gang up "let's prevent Mischa from winning twice as he so rightly deserves" near the endgame, but six different people voting Dragon Delta cool and fun makes it all worth the while. I'm such a team player.

Car Wars: the Card Game

I won this from a Steve Jackson MIB at Millennium Con 8 over Halloween. I hadn't gotten the chance to play it, so I got to enjoy That New Game Smell. As a simplification of the original early eighties version, this does the job. We played in maybe 15-20 minutes, with the first kill (sorry, David) in less than fifteen minutes. It works as filler, but really not much else. The color certainly helps the theme, but the simplification (and the fact that you don't build cars whatsoever- the stock cars are mechanically identical) completely removes the immersion and attachment of the original. I'm not saying I want to whip out the original and do some hard core physics sim to throw cars around, but having a new Car Wars video game would rock like a hurricane. Turn-based? Real-time? Both?

At any rate, that's all we played at Great Hall. Much geeking and socializing abounded, of course. David had some sort of surgery sim for his Nintendo DS, but I didn't get a chance to play it. I suppose that I'll have to fire up a DOS emulator and play Life and Death. Hooray for four-color CGA!

And at today's New Game game day:

Apples to Apples

I didn't play this, but rather came in at the end of a four-player game. Two of the players had never played before, one of whom is the "gaming widow," so to speak. I still stand by my recommendation that Apples to Apples works great as a party game, as a non-gamer game, or as a light intro game.

Modern Art

Next, we played Reiner Knizia's Modern Art, possibly one of the purest auction games out there. This is a damn good game that smacks of Knizia's mathematics background. I am pretty terrible at this game, generally coming in second-to-last, and I think it speaks to its excellence that I still have fun auctioning off modern art and selling the most popular.

In a nutshell, three to five players represent auction houses with works from five artists with differing rarities. Each card in the deck features a piece from one of the five artists and specifies one of five different kind of auctions (Open, Sealed, Once Around, Fixed, and Double). Each turn, a player chooses one card and auctions it. Cleverly, players pay each other instead of the bank, which ensures both a dynamic interaction between players and an internal decision struggle: I want this, but do I want to really give my money to so-and-so in the lead? At the end of each auction season, the works are then valued based on their popularity in this season as well as the previous seasons. You then sell your art, including the art worth nothing. Did I mention that you keep your reserve funds secret from the other players?

Very tasty stuff here. If this even remotely sounds up your alley, get it. Mayfair recently put out a still widely available English version, so you've got no excuse.


Tikal is a very clever German game with a deep jungle exploration theme. Each turn, players reveal an additional tile of the jungle and spend ten action points to move their explorers, unearth temples, dig for artifacts, and generally get in each other's way. A little randomness exists in the layout of the jungle hexes, but largely things happen due to the strategy of the players. The game overall has nice art and its components are made of good sturdy high-quality materials. It also very elegantly explains possible actions in a language-free reference card. I think I'd need to play this a second (or third!) time to fully grok it.

Ticket to Ride

I've already posted my thoughts on this game. Nothing new, as I played Tikal while the other three played Ticket to Ride.


The last game I played before cutting out for the evening was Tantrix. This is an older tile-laying game from New Zealand, still in print after nearly twenty years. Each unique hexagonal Bakelite tile has three of four colored lines drawn across it; players compete to make either the longest single line (1 point per segment) or the longest closed loop (2 points per segment). Abstract strategy games appeal to me precisely because of the abstraction, as opposed to (say) miniature wargaming. In the same breath, a little bit of color laid on top of abstract strategy goes a long way, as in chess. This simple game of colored lines has a lot going for it. The Wikipedia article has a great deal of information on the game.

Greylight word count: 2126
Birthday countdown: 3!

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